Today’s Headlines: Placenta Eating, Statins and Multitasking

There’s no evidence for the “health benefits” of placenta eating. A number of celebrities have been making a big deal recently over eating their placenta after birth claiming that it has a wide variety of health benefits. But a new survey of studies out this week has found no evidence for any of those claims. “The review looked at 10 published studies related to placenta eating, but it could not find any data to support the claims that eating the placenta raw, cooked or in pill form carried any health benefits. Placentophagy, as the act of eating placentas is known, has been said to reduce pain after delivery, increase energy levels, help with breastmilk production and enhance bonding between mother and child. Some are also convinced that it replenishes iron stores in the body, but the research team said this was based on subjective reports rather than scientific research.” Importantly, the team pointed out that no studies have been done on the risks of eating the placenta. “The organ acts as a filter to absorb and protect the developing fetus from toxins and pollutants. As a result, bacteria, viruses and heavy metals could remain within the placenta tissues after birth. Since the dosing is inconsistent and there are no regulations as to how the placenta is stored and prepared, women really don’t know what they are ingesting.” (BBC)

Statins don’t seem to increase memory troubles compared to other cholesterol drugs. Concern has simmered for some time about the possible effects of cholesterol-lowering statin medications on memory. But new research out this week has found that they’re no more likely to cause memory issues than other drugs for high cholesterol. “For the new study, the researchers compared medical record data from more than 482,500 people not on cholesterol drugs to a similar number of people who were taking statins and nearly 26,500 people who were taking other types of cholesterol-lowering medications. Overall, 0.08 percent of statin users had some sort of memory problem noted in their medical record within 30 days after starting statins, compared to 0.02 percent of those not taking cholesterol-lowering medications. But when the researchers compared people taking other kinds of cholesterol-lowering medications to those not taking any such drugs at all, they found a similar pattern.” The researchers think the increased rate is occurring because doctors start to looking for and finding more memory issues when they put their patients on drugs for cholesterol, not because the drugs are leading to memory problems. (Reuters)

Multitasking during exercise doesn’t decrease effort. Catching up on your favorite TV show might seem like a great way to take your mind off of sitting on the exercise bike, but many had worried that this sort of distraction might make the watcher slack off. Not so, according to new data released this week. “For the study, a team of researchers from the University of Florida asked 28 participants with Parkinson’s disease and 20 healthy older adults to complete a series of 12 increasingly difficult cognitive tasks while exercising on a stationary bicycle. Participants cycled 25 percent faster while performing the six easiest cognitive tasks. They slowed down as the tasks became more difficult, but never fell below their baseline cycling rate.” The researchers originally thought cyclists would slow when they took their mind off of the activity at hand, but were surprised to find that speed increased. “They explained that when a person exercises, a certain amount of physiological arousal occurs in the brain, which releases specific neurotransmitters, chemicals that send information throughout the brain and body. The team thinks that the arousing effect in the brain could facilitate motor performance.” (CBS)